NEW YORK (AP) — An initially peaceful demonstration in New York City over the death of a black man killed by police in Minnesota spiraled into chaos as night fell Friday, as protesters skirmished with police officers, destroyed police vehicles and set fires.
In Brooklyn, activists who had marched from Manhattan chanted insults at officers lined up outside the Barclays Center and pelted them with water bottles. Police sprayed an eye-irritating chemical into the largely diverse crowd multiple times, then cleared the plaza.
Video posted to social media showed officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they took people into custody and cleared streets.
Later in the evening, what had been a tense situation turned increasingly violent. Demonstrators rocked a police van, set it ablaze, then scrawled graffiti across its charred hulk and set it on fire a second time as officers retreated from the area. Blocks away, protesters used a club to batter another police vehicle.
At another location near the arena, protesters and police brawled in the street, leaving the street strewn with debris.
Numerous people were arrested and police brought in buses to take away prisoners.
“We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn,” Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted. “Our sole focus is deescalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight. We don’t ever want to see another night like this.”
The police department said numerous officers were injured, including one who had a tooth knocked out.
The demonstrations were held in defiance of a ban on gatherings, imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of New Yorkers including dozens of members of the NYPD.
“It’s my duty to be out here,” said Brianna Petrisko, among those demonstrating earlier in the day in lower Manhattan.
“Our country has a sickness,” Petrisko said. “We have to be out here. This is the only way we’re going to be heard.”
Protests around George Floyd’s death have taken place around the country and were not quelled by the news Friday that the Minneapolis officer recorded kneeling on his neck would face criminal charges.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier in the day on Friday said he stood with the Minnesota protesters.
“Nobody is sanctioning the arson, and the thuggery and the burglaries, but the protesters and the anger and the fear and the frustration? Yes. Yes. And the demand is for justice,” Cuomo said.
De Blasio said police officers had been told to respect peaceful protest, but he also had a message for demonstrators: “If you are angry with the government, if you are angry with the elected leaders, direct that anger to all of us, because if we haven’t done enough, we are the ones who should be held responsible,” he said. “But the police officer in front of you is a working man or woman just trying to do their job.”